Sunday, August 31, 2008

Legal Drinking Age

In 1984 America passed a law requiring every state to raise the minimum legal drinking age to 21. In Europe the minimum legal drinking age can be twelve years old or lower. Many people are beginning to question America's laws on the subject. Now my opinion is that Europe has it better, and that was before I saw the statistics. You simply want what you can't have, especially if you're young and immature. As a scientific theory it's called psychological reactance. Let's see if it makes any sense.

21 percent of American youths report being drunk in the last thirty days. European youths report 13 percent. Europe:1, America:zip.

Less than 25 percent of Euros report being intoxicated throughout their life, while in America with our safe drinking laws the number is over 50 percent. Europe:2, US:nada.

And now college deans and presidents are joining in. Down here in Texas there was never any question that 21 was a bad idea. When that law gets overturned, there will be a brief period of very drunk kids, a national hangover, and then after a few years drinking becomes no big deal for under-21's and we begin to get Europe's stats. Many people want to only lower it to 18. Personally I think we ought to dip a little lower. Say, twelve. If you get used to drinking before you can legally drive, you learn not to mix them. Funny. I never thought I'd find myself siding with the Europeans on any political issues.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain - Palin 2008

So McCain has finally chosen a pick for the VP spot. And it's a horrible choice.

Sarah Palin was a mayor of a small town less than 20 months ago, and now McCain has chosen her for VP when it tears apart his argument against Obama. McCain has repeatedly said that Obama is too inexperienced to be our country's president, yet now he has chosen an extremely inexperienced person to take his place as the leader of this country if he was to die. And keep in mind that McCain (if elected) will be our country's oldest president to ever be elected, which puts his chance of not being able to run the country much higher than it would be if he were younger.

I'm also not very happy with the gist of why McCain chose Palin: to catch Hillary supporters. He might say he trusts Palin, and thinks she'll help the nation, but what are the chances that he would chose a woman to be VP in this election? It echos the point that Obama made in his speech at the convention, that McCain just "doesn't get it". The election shouldn't be about playing to peoples emotions or prejudices, it should be about showing who you are and why the people should elect you.

You should practice what you preach, I'm afraid McCain didn't do that here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC in Denver, McCain's VP

Two issues: DNC in Denver and McCain's choice for VP.

As DNC is going on in Denver, what is your impression about it? How much the opinion polls will be influenced by the convention?

Does anyone have any news or rumors on McCain's choice for VP?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Bejing Olympics, International Business, and Genocide

To quote Nicholas Donatiello Jr., president of the Chinese research firm, “On television the Olympics looks like an athletic event, but on location it’s a big business convention." Judging by the hubbub surrounding this years Bejing Olympics, I would agree wholeheartedly. To name a few important issues:

1) Companies like Coca Cola, General Electric, and Anglo American are being prodded for their support of the "Genocide Olympics".

a) This prodding has gone to create the "United Nations Global Compact and the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights", a conference dedicated to the tie between big business and human rights. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if China wasn't turning a blind eye on Darfur, which brings me to my second point...

2) China has turned a blind on the Genocide in Darfur. Although many countries haven't jumped up and done something (*cough cough* United States *cough cough*), China has only recently mentioned the problems to the Sudanese Gov., although China is heavily connected to Sudan, with Sudan hosting Chinese oil refineries on Sudanese soil, with the result of 279,100 barrels per day being exported back to China.

3) China is changing their look for the outside world, which will get a rare first hand look at China's poverty, injustice, censorship, and questionable human rights. Some examples:

a) Recently, through a combination of flooding, mining accidents, and a lack of political funding to smaller townships, many individuals are not be compensated for health problems, (which leave them out of work). An estimated 10,000 people have flocked to Bejing, for hopes that the Supreme People's Court will provide justice. Bejing on the other hand is sending them back to their towns, without compensation. China does not want the world to see it's underbelly. In the last month alone, China has created blockades to, well, block the protesters. In a few accounts, police have even razed the slums where protesters live.

b) I'm sure most Wikimedians know about this, but recently, China opened it's Internet services to zh.wikipedipia. Most sources say that this is an attempt to lower the censorship issue while Bejing is internationally watched and that after the Olympics are over, it will return right back to censoring the internet. The censorship is big enough, and so well known, that the Wikimedia community had to take action.

Those issues are frequently brought out there as reasons for any company that cares about their public relations to distance themselves from China. On the plus side, these complaints are causing some good for places like Darfur and Tibet. In fact, because of the heightened sense of the public, companies that are supporting the Chinese Olympics are also "covering all their bases" by helping out Third World countries and other good causes. Coca Cola for instance has supplied Sudan with fresh water and has held conferences, albeit the records are unreleased, that are said be about how to help Darfur.

And what does China have to say about these claims? In a CNN news report (below) Wang Hong Yi of the Chinese Institute of International Studies says that the Olympics should not be tied to political issues, and that this is the "worldwide consensus".

Interestingly though, some facts point in the other direction on the issues of China's connection to Darfur. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's arms transfer data for 2007, China only gave Sudan 8% of hits weaponry, while Russia provided 87%. An even more interesting fact is that, according to the CIA, Japan received 48% of Sudan's exports, while China only received 31% (with South Korea lagging behind with only 3.8%). An even more alarming note is that the UN does not consider Sudan, and subsequently Darfur, to be involved in acts of genocide. In a UN report, released in 2005 (It's a PDF, with no HTML version to be found. The closest is a critical analysis by an independent journal), section II clearly states that, "The Commission concluded that the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide." But, like my personal opinion, it also states that, "The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region. International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide." Although we may be getting off track, it is important to know that (1) China is not giving large amounts of weaponary and resources to Sudan, and then that (2) Sudan is not commiting genocide. Heinous and horrible yes, but not genocidal. Thus, China is not funding genocide. This, of course, does not exempt them from concerns of human rights violations, censorship, and societal distortion.


P.S. Thanks to Voicer, from the comment section of the Economist article. Though I checked his/her links for accuracy (Thanks Wikipedia for the reference paranoia >_< ), they look good, and bring up some very valid points for any counterargument.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ongoing conflict in South Ossetia

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news in the past week or so will have noticed the ever enlarging tension growing between the Georgian and Russian governments regarding South Ossetia. For background purposes, South Ossetia is the unrecognised territory which is currently under dispute of ownership between the Georgians, and the the Russians—who want to keep the territory to essentially prevent them being blocked in by NATO (especially when Ukraine, most likely, becomes a member state).

It's, basically, quite a complicated situation.

The situation has been escalating for just over a week after Georgian forces stormed South Ossetia in the hope of claiming the territory. Several paramilitary troops from South Ossetia were killed early on in the conflict.

Things took a turn for the worse when Russia decided they would press though North Ossetia, across the Russian-Ossetia border and towards the south—perhaps an understandable move considering there are many Russian citizens in the area. Moscow, specifically President Medvedev, has stated that:

"According to the constitution, I, as the President of the Russian Federation, must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are. Those responsible for the deaths of our citizens will be punished."

Now, I can see where President Medvedev is coming from on this one. The Georgians acted pretty irrationally and spontaneously, bar the permit by NATO at Bucharest, over an area which they knew Russia would retaliate over. It really does seem like a little bit of a suicidal plan for Georgia. Let's give some perspective on that with a brief comparison of military capabilities (taken from the Wikipedia article):

Population of Georgia: 4.6 million
Population of Russia: 140 million
Standing army of Georgia: 18,000 personnel
Standing army of Russia: 1,037,000 personnel
Georgian tanks: 128
Russian tanks: 23,000

I think you see where this is going. If anyone can offer rationale behind the Georgian's tactics, please feel free to explain. In fact, let's make that a question to you all.

"Who knows a reasonable explanation for why Georgia would actually try and fight against the Russians?"

It's mind-boggling.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Comments from a new editor

Just thought i'd introduce myself a little before I get started here, i'm Cyclonenim and i'm a British student, hopefully going off to study Medicine in about a year's time. As you can imagine, i'm interested in the whole 'Britain' and 'Medicine' topics, so i'll be keeping you informed a tad on issues within these realms—particularly the National Health Service (NHS).

As a starting question for any Brits out there:

"Do you believe the British government has the capability to reform the NHS?"

I'll leave this one open for now, I'll probably give away my opinion on the matter in future posts. All the best—Cyclonenim